Net Neutrality Watch Dog Tools From M-Lab by Google

By January 30, 2009

Google hopes to re-infuse the chain of Internet connection command with a dose of transparency along with the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium, and academic researchers with a new project: Measurement Lab (M-Lab), announced Wednesday. M-Lab is an open platform where researchers can release Internet measurement tools. The tools that are in development measure connection speed, run diagnostics and attempt to discern if ISPs are blocking or throttling particular applications. Google will make servers available early this year for researchers in twelve locations in the US and Europe with 36 servers. They hope that this will overcome the accuracy barrier that researchers have previously suffered due to lack of resources. Intended to be a community-based effort, M-Lab welcomes support of other companies, institutions, researchers and users to provide their own servers, tools or other resources.

target="_blank">Three tools are currently up and running: Network Diagnostic Tool tests connection speed and receives diagnosis of problems limiting speed. Glasnost tests whether BitTorrent is being blocked or throttled. Network Path and Application Diagnosis finds and analyzes common problems that impact last-mile broadband networks. Users will be able to use the tools and gain information about their connection, while all data is simlutaneously made public, adding to the data available to researchers.

Google has based some of its business model on an Internet-reliant computing structure, projecting that the majority of operations, storage and other functions will be carried out by interactions with remote servers. In this way, the company has a complex relationship and vested interest in an open and neutral Internet. As the Google blog explains, their priority is keeping the Internet an open platform for consumer choice and innovation." The M-Lab project has the potential to empower consumers by making public information about how different ISPs allow, limit, or manipulate the flow of information on the 'Tubes.

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